20 October 2013

Airbus factory in Broughton, where the A350 wings are assembled, has an order book of equivalent to around 7 years’ production.

Airbus in Broughton is responsible for assembling wings for the entire family of Airbus commercial aircraft which includes the A320 Family, A330 Family, A380 and the A350 XWB.

With 6,300 employees across its 700 acre site, you could be forgiven for expecting Airbus in Broughton to be an impersonal place to work.

One aspect that really comes across when visiting the site though is the sense of family felt by workers here.

Walking around the plant there is a huge sense of pride, enthusiasm and teamwork emitting from the staff, all of whom are managed by Paul McKinlay, head of Airbus in Broughton. He has been in his current role at the site, which is situated in a Flintshire village near Chester, for 3 years this month but has been working at the factory for 23 years.

Speaking of developments at Airbus in Broughton over that time, he said: “It’s a tremendous success story. “We’ve invested £1.8bn here over the last 10 years on the back of tremendous product performance and great success in the market place. Recent expansions amount to £42m over the last 18 months and include a new north entry to the site, an extension to the Long Range Equipping building ahead of a production ramp-up for the A350 and a new station for the aircraft part carrier Beluga plane to allow its cargo doors to be opened in strong winds.

McKinlay began his career at Airbus in Broughton working at the factory during his summer holidays whilst studying for a chemistry degree from the then UMIST (the University of Manchester Institute of Science of Technology).

Asked about how he goes about managing such a large number of employees, the 44-year-old said: “To some degree it’s simple, treat others like you like to be treated yourself. I spend a lot of time on communication and also think it’s very important to recognise the importance of the site to the community, the economy and the UK.”

The father-of-two, who also has a stepson working at the factory, sees openness as key to his management philosophy.

He said: “I don’t have an office, I sit in an open plan area so I’m more approachable. “I spend quite a lot of time on the shop floor and have regular question and answer forums for the employees. Every day there’s a different challenge.”

“One of my favorite moments was when the employees saw the A350 take off for the first time. “I’ve been here 23 years and it was only the second time I’d seen a first flight. “We had a big screen and a party for the staff.”
Speaking about the challenge of attracting young people to pursue manufacturing as a profession, McKinlay said: “I think the culture is changing but it’s an ongoing problem throughout manufacturing in the UK.

“It’s about encouraging both males and females that manufacturing apprenticeships are as good if not better than going to university and that it’s a viable alternative.“It’s not a gender but a cultural issue in the UK.

“It takes time for perceptions to change but we’re having success, people are starting to realize we’re hi-tech and it’s not the traditional image of a dirty manufacturing industry.”
Currently staff at Airbus in Broughton are working on an order book of 5,190 aircraft, equivalent to around 7 years’ production.

Based on the article “Big Interview: Paul McKinlay, head of the Airbus factory in Broughton” published in Liverpool daily post.

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